My new bank cards arrived this week. My name is now officially 30 letters long. I’ll admit, it looks fairly ridiculous (and it only just fits).
I already had two middle names and since we got married, I’ve got two surnames too.
While I’d never been one of those girls who has planned her wedding down to the last napkin ring by age 11, I’ve definitely turned the idea of what I’d do with my name when I got married over in my head. I wasn’t going to “just” take my husband’s surname without some serious thought.
The thought of losing my name always made me feel a bit small and sad. Because it did feel like a loss. They may describe the traditional way of doing things as “taking your husband’s name”, but really, he’s taking yours. Marriage takes it away so you don’t get to use it any more.
My surname has always been a huge part of my identity. There was another Sally in my class at school, so from Year 7 onwards I was always “Sally T”. My schoolfriends still call me that more than 15 years later. I remember realising that my dad was, quite literally, Mr T, and it tickles me to this day. I regularly refer to my bonkers band of brothers as #teamtaylor. In fact, thanks to a childhood of football teams (him) and army cadets (me) Rob probably calls me “Taylor” more than he calls me “Sally”, and he’s always “Goodwin” to me.
When you get engaged a lot of those “what ifs” about the future start to crystallise. I remember turning to Rob the day after he proposed and telling him how excited I was about his 40th birthday, because “I know I’ll be there”. Similarly, I knew I wasn’t going to be Sally Goodwin. I toyed with it for a couple of weeks, but… it just didn’t feel like me. It felt like trying on someone else’s coat. It felt itchy and uncomfortable. It just didn’t fit. “Mrs Goodwin”… that’s Rob’s mum, not me.
“Taylor-Goodwin”, on the other hand… Trying that on, I thought, yeah. I like that. That fits quite nicely.
Let’s stick with the faintly implausible coat metaphors – if “Goodwin” felt like a borrowed jacket, “Taylor-Goodwin” felt like a sharp new work blazer. The kind you slip on, straighten your lapels, and before you’ve even looked in the mirror you’re thinking ooh, yeah… I like that. You look and you see you… but a bit better. A bit more polished. You, but an update. That was the kind of “Mrs” I wanted to be. Sally 2.0.
I also liked the symbolism of it. A marriage is the joining of two families, and that is literally what our name looks like: two family names, with a bridge drawn between them.
Having decided what I’d do, Rob got to thinking about what he’d do. For a long time he was going to stay “Goodwin” and I’d be “Taylor-Goodwin”. And I honestly didn’t mind. The prerogative on both sides was that we would each have the name we wanted to have. I wasn’t going to force a Taylor on him and he wasn’t going to force a Goodwin on me.
I even quite liked the idea of explaining to a future daughter why our names were different: “Taylor is Mummy’s family’s name and Goodwin is Daddy’s family’s name.” I really didn’t think he’d change his, and honestly, that was cool. Until one day last December when he said he wanted to too. He’d continued that imaginary conversation with our imaginary daughter, and told me that if she asked why we didn’t have the same name… he “couldn’t think of a good enough reason.”
It really took me by surprise. Even now, when I hear him give his name for something I have to stop myself asking him, “Are you sure?”. But equally it makes me feel really proud.
This isn’t to say I’m anti the traditional married name. I was talking to a friend last night who is getting married next summer and is going to take her fiance’s surname. She’s not particularly bothered about her name and she quite likes his. But when she told a colleague, they said, “Oh. I thought you’d do something a bit more feminist than that.”
Not taking your husband’s name can certainly be a feminist move. But taking it doesn’t mean you’re letting the sisterhood down. Feminism = equality; it’s about choice, and specifically, about women having exactly the same choices as men. She’s chosen to take his name. I chose not to take Rob’s because I didn’t want to.
I firmly believe that the more people that do it differently, the more people will realise you can do it differently. Have the name you want to have. If you want to keep it, keep it! If you decide 10, 20, 50 years down the line you want a different name, change it then! It’s just a name. And with things (hopefully) changing to list both parents on marriage certificates, and child passports… there’s really no reason to all have the same name, unless you want to.
I must admit, I was expecting a bit of a backlash. But I’ve been really heartened by the response. It sparked an interesting discussion in the bank as to the male equivalent of “maiden name” (he’s keeping his for work purposes) – bachelor name? There isn’t one, but maybe in the future there will be. Rob works in a seriously old-school, traditional industry and that was where I thought the biggest push-back (his parents aside) would come from. But not only did they not particularly bat an eyelid, some of his more senior colleagues told him that’s what they’d like to have done when they got married, 10 or 15 years ago, but they didn’t feel it was an option at the time.
I like it. There probably aren’t that many Taylor-Goodwins knocking about, and it makes us feel like a team. Team Taylor-Goodwin! Oh Christ. The bank card’s bad enough – imagine trying to get that on the back of a football shirt…